The mayor of Seongnam, the city where the market is situated in South Korea, southwest of Seoul, announced the news on December 13. To explain this step, he opened his speech by using the famous words of Gandhi, “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
The 22 affected merchants were part of the negotiations with the municipality and have stopped the killing and sale of dogs since December 19. The agreement requires that they definitively cease from now until next May.
Every year since the 1960s, more than 80,000 dogs were sold, dead or alive. Like everywhere in South Korea, animals destined for this market spend all their lives in cages. They are normally killed by hanging or electrocution. Living conditions and slaughter particularly shocking which animal rights organizations have criticized for many years.
The KAWA (Korean Animal Welfare Association), spearheaded the effort, and has since applauded this “big step toward changing the dog meat industry here,” specifying that they will still have to “constantly monitor dog meat shops in the market to see if they really stop slaughtering dogs and change their business.”
KAWA fears that this prohibition will be difficult to enforce when the consummation and sale of dog meat in general is still authorized in the town.
While it was the ethical argument that was promoted in the official announcement, other motivations seem to have also pushed the Seongnam government in this direction.
A number of resident complaints, to start, because of the noise and odors generated by this activity. Also, the approach of the Olympic Games, which according to several observers, would motivate South Korean authorities to distance themselves from controversial cultural practices, like the consummation of dog meat.
South Korea will host the games in Winter 2018. “This will hopefully eradicate the negative image of Moran Market,” said the Mayor of Seongnam during his speech.
Two million dogs raised each year in South Korea
While it is definitely a victory for animal rights, this prohibition only concerns one Korean city. Around two million canines continue to be raised in the country for human consumption each year.
Peak dog meat consumption in South Korea is during summer festival of Bok Nal. Less well known than the revolting Chinese Yulin Festival, it still elicits overwhelming critiques. The Humane Society International (HSI), who is fighting in this area against this commerce, states that about 70% of annual conumption comes during the summer months, notably on the occasion of Bok Nal.
Like in China, the consumption of dog meat is often a generational battle between young people and seniors. According to a poll from the Gallup Institut in Korea in 2015, 20% of Korean men in their twenties in the past year, while 50% of men in their fifties and sixties have done the same.
For the younger generations, exposed to western culture, dogs and cats are pets above all else, and it seems strange and shocking to see them eaten. It is likely that the canine meat market will experience a rapid decline over the course of the next few decades in South Korea, like in China.
If you would like to support the HSI in their fight, click here. You can also sign this petition asking for the abolition of the Bok Nal festival.